The hidden cost of free apps

All free mobile apps supported by advertising carry a hidden cost. Those adverts can consume a fair amount of bandwidth, but they can be much more dangerous than that: they are perfect vehicles for hidden malware.

If you’re responsible for mobile devices used by employees to access corporate applications both these situations should give you cause for concern. That’s your bandwidth they are using, and as we explained last week (BYOD’s bandwidth burden) if they’re hogging bandwidth on the corporate WiFi network, your main in-house IT operations can be impacted. And if those devices get infected with malware then goodness knows what corporate information can be stolen and what damage can be done.

More on the dangers of malware in a minute, but it’s good to know that the solution to both problems is simple: deploy a good mobile device management system like 3CX Mobile Device Manager, ensure that it covers every mobile used on the company network and create a white list of approved applications. These will be the only ones that can be downloaded and run on any of the managed mobiles.

And of course, 3CX Mobile Device Manager will also allow you to perform the full range of mobile device management and security functions. You’ll be able to secure corporate data on mobiles, manage and deploy apps, monitor mobile device usage, block rogue apps, enforce password policies and perform remote lock and wipe.

Now, back to mobile malware. IT security vendor McAfee has produced a report on how free apps can mean free money for criminals. It explains how criminals get consumers to download apps that, at the very least, allow ad networks to siphon off personal and device information and, in the worst case, permit malware to send or receive premium SMS messages or take over the device.

It explains that they do this often with the unwitting sanction of users who approve the app’s access to their phone’s permissions “Most mobile users do not understand mobile app permissions,” McAfee explains. “Even more do not worry about them. … As consumers get less sensitive to permissions, they accept more permissions. Every extra permission provides an opportunity for criminals.”

Not all these apps pose a threat to corporate data, but if you’re picking up the bill for the device, they will certainly cost you. Text messages to premium numbers can cost many dollars each.

The Google Play app store does have procedures to block rogue apps but getting an app from Google Play is no guarantee of purity: 74 percent of malware-bearing apps came from Google Play.

And even if Google has taken them down, users still manage to find them. “The top two malicious app downloads in the first four months of 2013 were apps Google had bounced in February: a sniper game and Lost Temple II,” the report says. “After Google bounced these apps, determined users still found them at other stores.”

Some people, it seems, will go to great lengths to get themselves into trouble.

So if you’re a business that wants to protect their data, secure their mobile devices and control how much money leaves your pocket, why not try 3CX Mobile Device Manager? It’s free for up to 5 devices and you can signup easily here!

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About 3CX 3CX, developer of the award-winning Windows VoIP PBX 3CX Phone System, has launched the 3CX Mobile Device Manager – an easy to use and inexpensive hosted and deployable mobile device management solution that allows users to secure, monitor and manage their Android, iOS and Windows devices.,,,

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